“We [the founders] believed that farmworkers would listen to [their peers] about health care issues. You are always going to have… people working in the fields who feed us. We need to continue to support them to improve their lives. Respect and be grateful for the work that they do and design health promotion programs in holistic ways.”-Sister Maurita Sengelaub RSM, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Farmington Hills, MI and Founding Member of MHP Salud
Since its inception in 1983, MHP Salud has developed a strong history of working with farmworkers and their rural communities to improve health and increase access to care. Developing and implementing innovative health promotion programs with a firm commitment to collaboration and resource-sharing have remained key organizational strategies. The National Migrant Worker Council, Inc., an association of Catholic sisters, religious leaders and volunteers, originally shaped this vision out of their commitment to improving the health of farmworkers. With a small grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Council conducted a community assessment with farmworkers in the Midwest and designed the original Migrant Health Services Directory and the Camp Health Aide Program.
The first Camp Health Aide Program in MHP Salud’s history began in Bangor, Michigan in 1985. The program is based on David Werner’s Village Health Worker model and is tailored to the unique needs and strengths of the Latino farmworker community. It is MHP Salud’s original Promotor(a) program and remains a core model for work in migrant labor camps and communities. Based on the success of the Bangor program, additional programs followed throughout the Midwest. MHP Salud helps local Migrant and Community Health Centers or community organizations establish programs and then provides ongoing consultation, materials and other assistance. Since 1985, MHP Salud has helped to develop an average of two Camp Health Aide, Community Health Worker or Promotor(a) programs each year.
Experienced Promotores and Promotoras from the Midwest soon invited MHP Salud to develop programs in their permanent home base in South Texas to serve the United States-Mexico border community. In 1987, MHP Salud offered its first programs in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Initially, all programs were held in the fall and winter to complement the summer season in the Midwest. In 1993, the agency established a permanent office in Relampago, Texas, to maintain both seasonal and year-round programs called Colonia Health Worker Programs. The office was moved to nearby Weslaco in 2008. Experienced Promotores(as) participate in advanced training, provide peer education and support at understaffed health care organizations, and conduct outreach in isolated border colonias and communities. The Texas programs have increased since that time, building community capacity and addressing the unique health challenges of the border region.
MHP Salud has developed several adaptations of the original Camp Health Aide Program model to build on community strengths and meet complex health needs. These Promotor(a) program models have been implemented by MHP Salud and by many health centers and other organizations over the years. For example:
- The Infórmate Teen Health Program began in Manchester, Michigan in 1995 and offered peer health education and group activities led by Teen Health Aides. Infórmate expanded to various sites throughout Michigan and South Texas, the program and added a traveling Teen Theater Troupe.
- The Salud Para Todos Program began in Michigan and Colorado in 2000 and has been implemented in several other states. Salud Para Todos Promotores(as) help their peers prevent and address substance abuse, mental health and behavioral health problems. The Nuevas Avenidas program, an adaptation of Salud Para Todos, ran in South Texas from 2006 through 2008.
- The Farmworker Doula Program started in 2001 in Sparta, Michigan and has expanded to South Texas. Experienced Promotoras are trained as Doulas, or birth attendants. They support farmworkers and other women through prenatal care, childbirth and the postpartum period.
MHP Salud’s programs have consistently grown in scale, depth and complexity over the organization’s history due to the vision and hard work of agency staff, Promotores(as) and others who support them.
In 2013, MHP Salud adopted its new name from its old name, “Migrant Health Promotion.” The name and logo refocus on the organization’s 30-year history serving migrants, with a widening of scope to include MHP Salud’s commitment to serving farmworker, border and other underserved and isolated communities throughout the United States.